The Error of “That Was Then, God…”

partingLast Thursday life dealt me an unexpected jolt (I did have a hand in it). By the time you read this Monday morning, life could look much different for me. And for four days, I’ve borne a familiar stomach knot of anxiety over it.

What if the worst happens?

Something you should know about me: I’m very literal. I engage in military-grade overthinking. That can prompt me to use good theology in bad ways.

God has come through over the years, sometimes in pretty spectacular albeit last-minute ways. But do I trust him to provide for me again? What if this time is different?

I’m fairly committed to the idea that God disciplines us for our good, and that his rod can take any form he sees fit. We can’t place parameters or expectations around his discipline, nor hold it against him if it’s harsher than we desire. That’s just solid theology. (And observable reality.)

But I can twist that, too. The creative lobe of my mind can manufacture all kinds of ugly scenarios God might emplace, then recruit the “solid theology” lobe to counter any “oh, come on, he’s not going to do THAT” reflex. After all, we can’t place limits on how hard God swings his rod, right?

The end result is that I end up imagining the worst-case scenario in most situations and guilt myself into expecting it.

But then I remember the Old Testament.

The Old Testament is one long remembrance of humanity’s forgetfulness. The ancient document records God coming through for his people again and again, and each time the sun seems to rise on an Israel that’s forgotten what he did. A new need arises and Israelites fear that things will be different this time.

The ten plagues free the people from Egypt; they cry out once cornered against the Red Sea.

The water parts and Israel is delivered; the next morning, they wish they had more water.

God slakes their thirst; later, it’s food they are short of.

Bread arrives; they disobey God’s commands and hoard it, though it’s promised to return the next day.

The seventh day approaches; now they’re commanded to hoard, on God’s promise that the bread will keep this time. Instead, they go out looking for more.

And lest you think the Israelites are stumped by new problems, in the very next chapter they’re out of water again, and react in the same way.

And I?

Well, I cannot rule out the possibility that God will allow what I most fear today.

But will that destroy me?

Will I forget his goodness past?

The God of the Scriptures didn’t rescue his people on Friday so that they would expect something different on Monday. He rescued them to establish his character and trustworthiness.

Either God delivers me or disciplines me. Either way, I’m not destroyed.

Perhaps I will put an end to this overthinking and simply let God decide what he’s going to do.

 

35 thoughts on “The Error of “That Was Then, God…”

  1. Over the years there have been many times that the enemy tempted me to think that I was being chastised by God when, in fact, that enemy was engaged in spiritual warfare and God was permitting the struggle for my own good. We tend to apply Hebrews 12 to too many situations, forgetting that God equips us to stand strong against our spiritual enemies (Ephesians 6). You are vague about the challenge you are facing, but I am confident that God will provide. And remember that when Jesus says “do not worry,” that’s not a commandment–it’s a promise. J.

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  2. I have a tendency to overthink things sometimes, too, and so I must continually rein in my thinking. So, I identify. I liked this:

    “The God of the Scriptures didn’t rescue his people on Friday so that they would expect something different on Monday. He rescued them to establish his character and trustworthiness.” Amen!

    I also agree that we must surrender to the Lord and let him decide what he is going to do and then just let him teach us what he wants us to learn through it, realizing that he is completely sovereign over our lives, and that he is going to work all things for good for those who love (obey) him, and who have been called according to his purposes.

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  3. Pingback: The Error of “That Was Then, God…” | Bringing God's Gift "WINDOWS FROM HEAVEN" To The People. EASTER 2019 WE BELIEVE

  4. I don’t think it’s okay for God to set expectations for us, but we’re not allowed to set any for him.

    If we as people are supposed to see God as someone we can have a relationship with then I think this is a double standard. From what I’ve seen in the Bible, God isn’t perfect and I don’t think people should to live up to his standards of he can’t even do that himself.

    To ask someone to do things for them and to then get angry when they ask for something back is abusive.

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    • Hi, Athena. I appreciate your honesty.

      Your viewpoint is obviously shared by many, and you should probably know that I rely on Scripture for the responses. Perhaps you’ve heard this before, but let me offer anyway…

      1) God does tell us what we can expect regarding his character. There are things he does reveal in Scripture so that we can know him. King David, for example, would rather undergo God’s discipline than man’s. I’ve always found that sobering (2 Samuel 24).

      2) Your worldview assumes that God is answerable to man’s moral standards – essentially, that man’s standards are ultimate. But who is really the deity in that situation, God or us? It would seem that if there is a God, he is the one laying down the rules, just as you do in your own house. And that brings up the possibility of actions forbidden to man being allowable to God, just as we in even an enlightened society agree to stratify and restrict rights based on certain factors (age, criminal history, need-to-know, etc.).

      3) Every relationship has rules. Don’t cheat on me, don’t steal or destroy my stuff, don’t badmouth me to others, etc. Break these and there’s tension. Not because there’s no love there, but because relationships are supposed to be refuges and safe places for love.

      The view of God as an overly harsh punisher typically assumes that man is innocent, that we haven’t broken his laws, that we owe him no debt. That assumption is almost always there. If it is removed, the entire picture is turned on its head.

      It’s difficult to accept God’s viewpoints over our own – I myself struggle to do so in my natural self, which tends to fall back towards something like yours. If Scripture is bunk, yours probably works. But if Scripture can be proven reliable – and I believe it can be – then the game changes entirely.

      4) I believe God to be a far more generous and approachable God than many American Christians do. Frankly, God has already given us a great deal more than we’ve earned, if Scripture is to be believed.

      Those are my thoughts. Feel free to swing by anytime, you’re most welcome here.

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      • I appreciate that you are willing to have a nice conversation with me, but this ideology is what brought me to hate myself. Unknowingly I became God’s slave and I wasn’t looking after myself. With the kind of mindset I was put in a position where I could’ve been easily been taken advantage of.

        I don’t think a lot of people look at the Bible as a whole. It taught people to do some good things -but its also taught them to do some really bad things. At church I was put in a love hate cycle (also known as stockholm syndrome). One day God loves me, the next I’m a sinner and I should feel obligated to do his bidding.

        I remember in church discussing authority and respect and what that meant to us. I remember talking about that not everyone that has authority over us deserves to lead us -but I never considered God to be a candidate.

        Telling people how much they don’t deserve love doesn’t help them more forward with their life. I revisted the mistakes I made a lot more often when I was a christian compared to now. Telling people how much they don’t deserve something causes them to dwell on all the things they’ve done wrong. Now, I still acknowledge the mistakes I’ve made, but I don’t let it haunt me like it used to.

        I’ve also learned to find love within myself instead of looking for it the church, god or jesus. The ideas of what people expect of you will change constantly -but you can only find solid ground once you’ve found love within yourself.

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      • You’re well on your way to inspiring a future blog post (my most recent one might also speak to this), but first, perhaps my testimony might resonate.

        For the last few years, God’s been revealing to me how I’m living in the past. I’ve been inhabiting an identity that casts a lot of shame on myself and dwells on my flaws, sins, and shortcomings. This has been happening at a near-unconscious level.

        At first glance, this might feel appropriate for a Christian, given Scripture’s emphasis on self-examination and humility. I stand by all that.

        BUT…then I learned that there is more. Consider the picture painted by these Scriptures about the new being in Christ:

        “The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” (Romans 8:14-15)

        “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, to proclaim the virtues of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9)

        “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (Romans 8:37)

        “In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.” (Ephesians 3:12)

        “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret” (2 Corinthians 7:10a)

        That doesn’t sound like a being relegated to a life of constant self-criticism, nor to self-neglect, nor to manipulation. Privileged children, special possessions, conquerors…faith in Christ creates this new being. This being can hold his or her head up in God’s presence, dignified, and is forgiven completely of all sins. For me to continue dwelling on forgiven sin is to say that God’s work was insufficient! That’s how I can safely say that God would have me recognize my full forgiveness.

        I don’t have much data on your spiritual upbringing, so perhaps I overspeak here, but I would say that if you were not raised in these truths, the theology you were handed was incomplete. This stuff is inspired Scripture, right alongside all the rest. It cannot be denied by any man without diminishing the God who wrote it, which no good church would dare. He is fiercely defensive of his children’s identity.

        I do recognize, though, that it’s difficult to believe. For my part, I have a “too good to be true” pessimism/fatalism complex that just doesn’t buy it. It’s a constant battle and diligence to keep the good stuff in mind. But that’s not unexpected, and we have God’s assistance to help us get there.

        Finally, I might add that we aren’t taught we don’t deserve love in order to keep our heads cowed; that would be incompatible with the new identity and sonship we’ve been given. We’re taught we don’t deserve love so that we don’t boast before him that we earned it ourselves, so that his character is magnified. It’s not a shame tactic at all.

        I’m curious what your thoughts are on all that?

        Liked by 1 person

      • I think your intentions are good, but when you look at the Bible as a whole it can put you through a love hate cycle. I’d rather disown the Bible and just love people then only quote the good verses in it. Telling people he Bible is good or is up to interruption still isn’t a good way to look at it.

        For every person using the Bible for good someone is (unknowingly) using it to hurt themselves or someone else.

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      • The Bible can definitely be abused by an evil heart to do so, just like cars, alcohol, two-by-fours, etc. Being divinely inspired wouldn’t preclude that. It just means God is right about the nature of people.

        As for me, though, Scripture gives me a far better love I could never find within myself. Anything within myself is subjective, fleeting, unstable. I’ve never found hate with him without later finding out that it was merely myself.

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      • My own experience has proved that you can love yourself and other people without a God. My father is an atheist and he has done a lot to provide for my family and I will refuse to separate myself from him. A place where I am forced to separate myself from my family and friends is not a heaven to me.

        Also God is the person who asking people to separate themselves from their own family members not inherently people.

        Most of my hate towards myself and people was actually driven by my own religion.

        I will never again accept that separating us from each other is right -even if that’s what God wants.

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